* Lounge Lizard responds to Moose, revealing the inspiration of his nom de plume.
As usual, you make some good points.
I agree with you that there seems to be a decline in rationality, which can perhaps be put down to the rise in importance of the semi-educated, such as the so called 'doctors' wives'. Perhaps 40% of young people now go to university and therefore think they must be clever, but the truth is that only about 10% of the population are really capable of university-level thought, or what was once considered university-level thought - and that eliminates many current academics!
Another factor is the rise in urbanisation and the increased importance of service industries. Few grow or make things any more - primary industries generally employ only about 5% of the population and secondary industry only about 20%. People chat more, by telephone, email and text message.
A most important factor is the decline in religion. As I noted in my Auspundits post on the Collapse of Anglicanism,
When I lived in Los Angeles in 1970, I was surprised to find that my local free suburban newspaper carried numerous advertisements for fortune tellers of one kind or another, readers of tea leaves, tarot cards or palms, spiritualists who could commune with the dead and various other oddball religious types. There they all were, competing for space with advertisements for garden services and adult bookshops. In those days, there was nothing like it in Australia.
It struck me then that when you abandon traditional religion, its place is immediately taken by cults and superstitions.
It should not surprise us that when semi-educated chatterers abandon old-style religion they tend to replace it with superstitions such as the currently fashionable cult of anthropogenic global warming.
I once tamed a blue-tongued lizard that lived in a drain at the back of my house. I found out from Taronga Zoo that blue-tongues love bananas, and I can confirm that my blue-tongue regarded bananas as akin to nectar of the gods. But the zoo warned me not to overdo the feeding as by so doing my lizard would lose the capacity to fend for itself. It's a similar situation with the friendly dolphins that swim with people at Monkey Mia in Western Australia.
Perhaps the fact that we live in a society which is stable, free, secure and prosperous has blunted our capacity for survival and ill prepared us for the challenges ahead in a wild and remorseless world. In short, we're now decadent and lack real purpose, so we either take up causes that tickle our moral vanity or just sail in a random direction hoping to find Moby Dick, as you put it.
In my earlier response, I listed four situations where it could be argued that sheer cold brutal expediency didn't, in the final result, determine policy. You correctly note that the actions taken could be justified on rational grounds and it's true that in many respects they paid off. In the case of the Falklands, for example, British success led to Mrs Thatcher gaining the respect required for her to set in train the reforms Britain needed to restore the economy and escape the clutches of the International Monetary Fund. Britain also gained a lot more respect internationally, at least for a few years. The Russians, for example, initially thought that retaking the Falklands would be impossible, and looked upon the British military with increased respect thereafter. In the case of East Timor, Lee Kuan Yew remarked that as Australia had advocated the referendum that was unexpectedly implemented by Habibie, we could not have walked away from the consequences and still retained any credit in the region. And since we didn't walk away, our stocks had risen.
However, I don't think this affects my conclusion that, in the absence of a direct impact on constituents, the prime driver for domestic support is moral rather than expedient, and that such a driver is essential for the successful completion of any difficult long-term project in a democratic society.
The problem is that WIMPS™ are not toughies. Many who were initially militant with respect to Iraq went to water at the first whiff of cordite. Wimpishness is a characteristic of modern society, in politics, academia and business. Just look at the reaction to the Danish cartoons. Years ago, when there were endless strikes in the electricity generating industry, a NSW Government minister told me that during the first week of any strike, all his business contacts would say, "Hang in there, beat the bastards!" But by the second week all these same businessmen would be crying in his ear, "Settle, settle, we're losing too much money!" Big business almost always lacks courage, which is why, more often than not, major industrial reforms are won because of the actions of small players such as Mudginberri Meats and Dollar Sweets.
WIMPS™ also typically operate in accordance with the foolish multicultural mantra that holds that underneath it all, human beings are all the same, which they're not. As a result, they are congenitally incapable of both understanding and anticipating reactions to their behaviour.